A couple weekends ago, I discovered a fine piece of Japanese reality television called Ninja Warrior. It so happened that a Ninja Warrior marathon was showing on G4, a network which typically concentrates on video games and computer related programming. However, it seems lately the network is crossing into the space usually reserved for the Spike TV channel. I ran across the show title while perusing the program guide and sipping my morning cappuccino. Unable to disregard anything with the word “ninja” in it, the 13-year old boy in me tuned in to channel 354. Connor and I were glued to the set for the next 2 hours.
Ninja Warrior is a competition show in which 100 contestants try to traverse a onerous obstacle course exhibiting their athletic prowess and striving to prove the heart of a ninja beats within their chest. In Japan, the competition is call Sasuke and is shown as a 3 hour special while the normal run of shows are on hiatus. The obstacle course is set in 4 stages with participants eliminated at each round. The stages are tough and usually no more than 5 people pass the first stage. The final stage, a timed climb up a suspended rope, has only been completed twice in the 19 competitions that have been held.
To me, the best part about watching Ninja Warrior is the crazy Japanese contestants. Most of them apparently hope to accomplish little more than strutting their stuff on the platform prior to the first stage. If you have ever played one of those Japanese style fighting video games (like Tekken) then you have already seen the kind of things these people do. I always believed the antics in those games were just silly additions to spice up a basic fighting game mechanic, but it turns out Japanese people really do that kind of stuff. They do back flips or martial arts poses. One guy who worked in a fish market brought pots, pans and chop sticks and juggled things. Another guy idolizes Bruce Lee and so dressed and acted like Bruce before the clock began. Another guy dressed in a suit and eye glasses ripped off his clothes to reveal a Superman costume complete with cape. My favorite was a 60 year old who stripped down to his hot pink bikini briefs then quickly failed the first stage. By the way, most of these showmen fail the first stage. We just don’t have anything quite like this in States. The nearest thing I can think of is American Gladiators but I don’t think that has the same kind of following as Sasuke does in Japan.
If you like ninjas, you’ll like askaninja.com